Archives

How many habitable exoplanets are there, really?

The TRAPPIST-1 system of exoplanets, approximately 40 light-years away

Exoplanets galore

As of the present date (August 2019), more than 4000 exoplanets have been discovered orbiting other stars, and by the time you read this even more will have been logged. Several hundred exoplanets were announced in a July 2019 paper (although these await

Continue reading How many habitable exoplanets are there, really?

Pi, climate change denial and creationism

Introduction

Right off, it may not sound like pi, climate change denial and young-Earth creationism have much in common. In fact, there is an important connection. Here is some background.

Credit: Michele Vallisneri, NASA JPL

Computing pi

Pi = 3.1415926535…, namely the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter, has fascinated

Continue reading Pi, climate change denial and creationism

Does the punctuated equilibrium theory refute evolution?

Introduction

Both creationist and intelligent design writers assert that there are large gaps in the fossil record, and that the conventional scientific picture of a gradual evolution is a myth. To a certain extent, this is true: the fossil record includes transitions that appear abrupt. In 1972, paleontologists Niles Edgredge and Stephen Jay Gould published

Continue reading Does the punctuated equilibrium theory refute evolution?

Marcelo Gleiser wins Templeton Prize

Credit: Templeton Foundation

The Templeton Foundation has announced that Marcelo Gleiser, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist at Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, USA, has been awarded the 2019 Templeton Prize.

The Templeton Prize, which includes a 1.1 million pound stipend, is awarded each year to a person “who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming

Continue reading Marcelo Gleiser wins Templeton Prize

When did life start on Earth?

Introduction

Both creationist and intelligent design writers assert that science has yet to understand the origin of life, and further claim that this is a fatal flaw in evolutionary theory [Behe1996; Dembski1998]. More importantly, creationist-minded members of the public have, in numerous cases, attempted to capitalize on this perceived weakness to persuade school boards and

Continue reading When did life start on Earth?

Is scientific progress real?

Top 500 supercomputer performance (orange = #1, blue = #500, green = sum)

Postmodern denials of scientific progress

The fact that scientific research has made immense progress over the past years, decades and centuries is taken for granted among professional scientists and most of the lay public as well. But there are others, from

Continue reading Is scientific progress real?

New books and articles on the “great silence”

Credit: NASA

The great silence

As we have explained in previous Math Scholar blogs (see, for example, MS1 and MS2), the perplexing question why the heavens are silent even though, from all evidence, the universe is teeming with potentially habitable exoplanets, continues to perplex and fascinate scientists. It is one of the most significant

Continue reading New books and articles on the “great silence”

Does the string theory multiverse really exist?

Credit: Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics

String theory, fine tuning and the multiverse

String theory is the name for the theory of mathematical physics which proposes that physical reality is based on exceedingly small “strings” and “branes,” embedded in 10- or 11-dimensional space. String theory has been proposed as the long-sought “theory of everything,”

Continue reading Does the string theory multiverse really exist?

Fermi’s paradox and the Copernican principle

Distant galaxies magnified by a gravitational lens

Fermi’s paradox

As we have discussed on this forum before (see, for example, previous Math Scholar blog), Fermi’s paradox looms as one of the most profound and puzzling conundrums of science: Given that the universe is presumed to be teeming with intelligent life and technological civilizations, why

Continue reading Fermi’s paradox and the Copernican principle

Chromosomes, DNA and human evolution

History

The Yunis-Prakash diagram comparing the chromosomes of humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans

Evolution in general and human evolution in particular continue to be bones of contention, so to speak, as evidenced by the ongoing efforts by some groups to prohibit or downplay evolution, or to mandate “equal time” for “intelligent design,” in state and

Continue reading Chromosomes, DNA and human evolution